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Malcolm

passenger or airline rights.

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This is about the US but I will follow with a story re Canada.

Airlines propose long list of rules to kill or revise as part of Trump deregulation initiative

 

LOS ANGELES — Nearly an hour after her American Airlines flight was scheduled to leave Honolulu International Airport, passenger Lisa Hill heard the pilot announce that a maintenance problem would delay the takeoff.

The pilot gave fliers the option of getting off the plane but Hill, who was flying to Boston after visiting her son, decided to remain seated, hoping to be in the air shortly.

Three more hours passed before the flight last November was canceled.

“For four hours I sat on that plane,” said Hill, the co-owner of a house cleaning business. “When the pilot finally said we should deboard, it was like a Black Friday sale at Macy’s. Everyone rushed off.”

Now, the Trump administration may roll back a rule that requires airlines to give passengers such as Hill the option of getting off a flight that is delayed too long on an airport tarmac. And that’s not the only regulation that might be weakened or scrapped.

Last year, the U.S. Department of Transportation temporarily froze all pending airline-industry regulations as part of an administration push to cut the burden of red tape on American businesses. And it asked the public and airlines for comments on existing regulations that could be halted, revised or repealed.

The so-called “tarmac delay rule” — adopted in 2009 after a series of incidents in which passengers were trapped in planes for hours — was just one of dozens that either airlines or an industry trade group targeted in response to the request.

The deregulation initiative is a dramatic shift for the federal agency, which under President Obama adopted or proposed more than 80 airline-related consumer-protection and safety regulations — prompting an outcry from the airline industry.

The agency also meted out stiff penalties. From 2015 to 2016, the transportation department increased the total amount of civil penalties on airlines and travel agents to $6.4 million from $2.4 million.

Southwest Airlines, for example, was fined $1.6 million for stranding passengers on 16 planes during storms on Jan. 1 and 2 in 2014 at Midway International Airport in Chicago. 

 

“The airlines are pretty clear that they want every consumer protection law repealed or not enforced,” said Paul Hudson, president of Flyersrights.org, a nonprofit group with more than 60,000 members. “I’m concerned that they would try to repeal the few consumer-protection regulations that are out there.”

3-hour limit placed on airline passengers’ tarmac waits »

For its part, Airlines for America, a Washington, D.C.-based industry trade group, called the Transportation Department’s initiative “a much-welcomed shift from a decade’s-long Washington practice of regulatory interference in the market.”

The group is specifically asking to modify or rescind more than 30 regulations, while individual airlines such as Delta, United and American either echoed those ideas or suggested rule changes of their own with the Transportation Department. All three airlines declined to comment on their filings.

Beyond the tarmac rule, other popular regulations that could be changed include one that requires airlines to advertise fares that include all fees and taxes. Another mandates that passengers be informed about how to file a service complaint with the department.

The deregulation push comes as the industry is basking in profit. Airlines reported a combined $17.6 billion in profit last year, a dramatic improvement from the nine years after the 9/11 terrorist strikes when the entire U.S. airline industry lost a combined $65 billion.

That improved financial performance resulted in an industry profit margin of more than 6 percent last year, compared with an average loss of 6.3 percent in the previous nine years, according to Airlines for America. Still, carriers say the regulations imposed by Washington are hurting their bottom lines.

“Many of the regulations/initiatives adopted or issued at the end of the previous administration are extremely costly, will be unduly burdensome on the airline industry, and should be repealed or permanently terminated,” United Airlines said in its statement filed with the Transportation Department.

For its part, the department said it will hold public hearings on the industry’s requests if it determines it wants to alter an existing rule. The process could take months and, in the end, the airlines may not get all or many of the changes they want.

 

“We are currently reviewing these comments carefully to determine what, if any, next steps to take,” the department said in a statement.

When you buy a plane ticket, here’s what you have to agree to »

Alison McAfee, a spokeswoman for Airlines for America, said she understands that all or most of the recommendations for revisions or repeals won’t be adopted. But she hopes that “an open and honest dialogue” with the department will lead to positive change.

Consumer groups worry, though, that the Transportation Department under President Trump will be more concerned with the financial well-being of the airline industry than the rights of passengers.

And it strikes them as audacious that the industry would seek to reduce its regulatory burden given its poor reputation. In 2017, airlines received a score of 75 out of 100 on the American Consumer Satisfaction Index. That is lower than U.S. banks (80), drugstores (79) and gas stations (76).

“It appears the only voice that matters are the airlines and the big powerful concerns,” said Kurt Ebenhoch, executive director of the Air Travel Fairness Coalition, an advocacy group that is pushing for full transparency of fares.

The 2012 rule that forces airline to advertise their full fares was in response to complaints from travelers who for years reserved tickets only to find that the final fare was as much as 30 percent higher when fees and taxes were included.

Now, when travelers search on airline websites, Expedia or other travel sites for a flight, they see the final price, with no hidden fees that cause sticker shock when it is time to pay the bill.

“For travelers to make fair comparisons among different itineraries, we have to know what flights will cost, apples to apples, so to speak,” said Steven Youra, a retired writing instructor from South Pasadena who flies about six times a year.

“That means we need, first, to have easy access to the full fare, including taxes and fees. If the government does not require that full disclosure, it’s just inviting the airlines to practice bait-and-switch,” he said.

But in its filing to the Transportation Department, Delta Air Lines suggested that the full price “distorts consumers’ views of what they pay for airline service (as opposed to what they pay in government-imposed fees and taxes), causing consumer confusion and engendering negative views of airfares.”

Another rule the industry is targeting is the 2011 regulation that gives passengers 24 hours after booking a flight the right to cancel and get a full refund. American Airlines told the department that it and other carriers already sell tickets with various options, including those that are nonrefundable and those that offer the right to cancel beyond 24 hours for a higher price.

 

Airlines for America, in its filing, said the rule allows passengers to hold “an unlimited number of reservations at once, free of any cancellation penalty during the 24-hour hold period,” thus eliminating a carrier’s ability to sell those seats to another buyer.

Perhaps the highest-profile consumer rule adopted during the Obama administration was the “tarmac rule.” Under the 2009 law, airlines are required to provide water, food and access to bathrooms during long delays and must let passengers on domestic flights exit the plane if the delay on the tarmac lasts at least three hours. The rule extends to four hours for international flights.

Airlines can be fined as much as $27,500 for every passenger who is stranded. The rule was in response to several infamous cases of flight delays, including the plight in 2009 of passengers stranded for nearly six hours on a plane in Rochester, Minn.

United Airlines suggested that the Transportation Department ease its enforcement of the rule and “increase efforts to work cooperatively with the industry.” The airline proposed that airlines be fined for every flight that is delayed on a tarmac — not for every passenger who is affected — and that the federal agency not fine airlines if delays are due to employee rest requirements or shift changes.

Another rule airlines and their trade group have complained about is a requirement that airlines “promptly” provide wheelchair assistance to passengers with disabilities, saying the rule should not be enforced until the term “promptly” is clarified.

Airlines also want to eliminate a requirement that they inform passengers how to file complaints with the federal agency, with the trade group saying it “displaces other information carriers wish to convey to their customers.”

Among other paperwork Airlines for America wants to eliminate are the monthly filings about the loss, injury or death of animals on the plane. The trade group said the reports are costly and “are of little or no value because such animal losses, injuries or deaths are extremely limited in number.”

The filing came before a French Bulldog died last week during a United Airlines flight from Houston to New York. A flight attendant ordered that the puppy and his carrier be placed in the overhead compartment but the airline said later that the flight attendant didn’t know the dog was in the carrier — a contention disputed by the dog’s owners.

United Airlines, which has since updated its policies for animals carried on board, declined to comment on the trade group’s request to stop reports of animal deaths.

“Today, our focus is to continue to further ensure the comfort and safety of all animals that fly with us,” United spokesman Charles Hobart said.

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New Airline Passenger Rights Bill Could Reduce Protection For Travellers: Advocate

The government disagrees however.HALIFAX — Proposed federal legislation that will lay the groundwork for an airline passenger bill of rights could claw back existing protections for air travellers, an airline passenger rights advocate says.

 

Gabor Lukacs said the Liberal government's Bill C-49, the Transportation Modernization Act, would double tarmac delays and scrap compensation requirements for flights affected by mechanical failures.

"What the government has billed as an air passenger bill of rights makes things substantially worse for Canadians," he said in an interview Saturday.

 

"It increases the time passengers are allowed to be kept on the tarmac without food or water from the current 90 minutes to three hours, and it dissolves responsibility from delays resulting from their own maintenance issues."

A spokeswoman for Transportation Minister Marc Garneau said rather than spell out an air passenger bill of rights in the legislation, it instead directs the Canadian Transportation Agency to develop regulations that would give air passengers more rights.

"Air passenger rights would be clear, consistent, transparent and fair for passengers and air carriers," Delphine Denis said in an email Saturday. "A more predictable and reasonable approach would benefit Canadian travellers."

She said the new rules would establish clear standards of treatment — and financial compensation in some cases — for air travellers in common situations, including overbooking, seating children near a parent or guardian at no extra cost, and standards for transporting musical instruments.

As for tarmac delays, Denis said there are "no regulations currently in place in Canada."

"Certain air carriers have specified their own rules within their tariff," she said. "A new approach would introduce regulations that would consistently apply to all air carriers ... when a tarmac delay exceeds three hours."

Denis added that airlines could always opt for a shorter tarmac-delay rule.

But Lukacs called the suggestion that there are no rules in place for tarmac delays "troubling."

He pointed to the Canadian Transportation Agency's ruling that Air Transat broke its agreement with passengers last summer during a sweltering, hours-long ordeal aboard two of its grounded aircraft.

The airline was fined $295,000 and ordered to cover out-of-pocket expenses for affected passengers on two flights that sat on the tarmac in Ottawa for almost five and six hours, respectively, with passengers not allowed to disembark.

"The government is taking away rights and trying to present existing rights as if they're something new," Lukacs said. "Now we're supposed to wait for the Canadian Transportation Agency to add protections."

He said the bill updating the Canada Transportation Act, which passed in the House of Commons in November, falls short of addressing the serious concerns of Canadian airline passengers.

Lukacs is set to appear as a witness at the Senate transport committee on Bill C-49 on Tuesday, where he said he'll lobby for amendments to the proposed legislation.

Blocked by Garneau

Meanwhile, the airline passenger rights advocate said he's been blocked from the official Twitter account of Transportation Minister Marc Garneau.

He admitted to being critical of Bill C-49 and that he's publicly contradicted the minister. But Lukacs said now he is unable to read, retweet or comment on the minister's tweets.

"It's a question of freedom of speech," Lukacs said. "As a Canadian I do have the right to see what the minister, in his capacity as minister, says to the public and comment on it and criticize it."

Denis said in an email that blocked accounts have violated one or more of the government's social media guidelines, including serious, unproven, unsupported or inaccurate information or accusations against individuals or organizations.

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31 minutes ago, Malcolm said:

have violated one or more of the government's social media guidelines, including serious, unproven, unsupported or inaccurate information or accusations against individuals or organizations.

Yup

That sounds like Gabor

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in January I was stuck on an aircraft on the tarmac in YHZ for 4 hours due to a weather ground stop in YYZ.  We could not get a wheels up time so could not depart.  This turned a 2 hour flight into a 6 hour flight (just a little over due to a hold over YYZ inbound).

A couple of things from the crappy seats in the back...

1) The cabin crew made water available through out the delay period and repeatedly walked through the cabin offering water.

2) the Heating and AC were fully functioning making the cabin temperatures livable.

3) constant updates from the front end kept us in the loop (there were moans and groans but generally acceptance of the situation)

These 3 things made the delay "comfortable".

Now this aircraft came in from LHR to YHZ then the YYZ with the same crew.  Just prior to our receiving a wheels up time the Captain had told us we were returning to the gate.  Personally I did not want this because that would have led to the crew walking due to duty times before we could get going.  This would have meant an overnight stay in YHZ and not at the companies expense because its weather.  I knew this so cringed when the announcement was made.

Now when an aircraft has a lengthy delay there are a few things that need to be ensured.

1) all systems related to cabin air are working and capable of supplying enough conditioned air to keep the aircraft comfortable.  If not...get them off.

2) Water should be supplied to all passengers throughout the delay.  if not....get them off.

3) proper and available information should be communicated regularily to the passengers as to the status of the delay.  if you can't do this....get them off.

there is no difference being in the cabin on the ground as compared to the air so as long as the comfort items are met then the delay should not be an issue.

The problem lies with the airlines being cheap and not wanting to burn fuel, hand out water, and actually keep customers informed.

 

 

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Air Transat Tarmac Delay: Federal Court Hearing

 
‎Today, ‎March ‎6, ‎2019, ‏‎6 minutes ago | Canadian Aviation News

Provided by Air Passenger Rights

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Air passenger rights advocate is suing Air Transat and federal regulator in connection with the handling of incidents in 2017 when hundreds of passengers were kept on the tarmac for hours.

WHAT: Dr. Gábor Lukács, founder and coordinator of Air Passenger Rights, is asking the Federal Court to order reassessment of the penalty Air Transat was ordered to pay for the 590 violations it committed in July 2017 by keeping passengers on the tarmac for five hours without adequate water, food, or ventilation. At least one passenger called 911, and emergency crews responded and provided aid. Dr. Lukács is also seeking a declaration that the penalty could not be waived by the regulator.

WHY: The maximum available fine is $10,000 per violation, yet Air Transat faced only a nominal fine of $500 per violation. The regulator unlawfully waived the fine on the same day the fine was issued by offering Air Transat a “credit” based on compensation settlements to passengers. Dr. Lukács contends that fines must be paid in addition to any compensation offered to or won by passengers.

WHERE: 5th floor, Law Courts, 1815 Upper Water Street, Halifax, NS.

WHEN: Thursday, March 7, 2019 at 9:30 am.

BACKGROUND: On July 31, 2017, two Air Transat flights, with 590 passengers on board, were diverted to Ottawa airport due to bad weather. Although Air Transat’s own tariff says passengers have the right to get off a grounded flight after 90 minutes, passengers were kept aboard for five hours without adequate water or food – in one case, with no air conditioning. At least one passenger called 911, and emergency crews responded to provide aid.

In March 2018, the Senate recommended limiting how long passengers may be kept in an aircraft on the tarmac to 90 minutes. The government rejected this recommendation.

The government is currently finalizing its so-called Air Passenger Protection Regulations that would allow airlines to keep passengers on an aircraft on the tarmac for over 3 hours, which is more than double the 90 minutes recommended by the Senate.

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After the finalization all flights should be limited to legs of 3 hours or less because apparently you cant sit on an airplane any longer than that.

What is the difference between flying Singapore to New York or sitting on the plane on the ground (other than the obvious not going anywhere thing).

I do agree that airlines should perhaps carry enough commissary to adequately provide fluids and small snacks during a delay of this type.

I had a 6 hour flight from YHZ-YYZ last year, 4 hours of that sitting on the ground in YHZ waiting for a ground stop to be lifted.  The AC crew was awesome and continually offered water to passengers.  to me it was better than sitting in the terminal as I could at least watch a movie or have a nap.  

I am not sure the people are complaining so much about being on the plane as they are about the long delay and no information.  As for being on there with no Air Conditioning.  That is actually dangerous and I do believe those passengers should get compensation.

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